International Hospitals in Shanghai

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No one ever really wants to have to pay a visit to the hospital, especially here in China. But sometimes it’s unavoidable. Luckily, Shanghai is home to many high-quality international hospitals that families can choose from. These international hospitals tend to be higher in cost, but offer services and quality of care that are comparable to Western hospitals.

How are international hospitals different from local hospitals in China?

According to Dr Yonglie Lee, Chair of Family Medicine at Shanghai United Family Hospital and Clinics, the biggest differences between local hospitals, VIP clinics and international hospitals are access to care, customer service and cost. “International hospitals are structured to have a system that most expatriates are accustomed to, and provide a level of service that is comparable to hospitals in the West,” he says.

Some of the benefits of going to an international hospital include the convenience of being able to make an appointment, request a specific doctor and use your international health insurance. Language also is not an issue as there are doctors from many different countries work- ing at international hospitals. These hospitals normally offer translation services as well.

“The quality of the medical services offered at international hospitals is also very high,” says Dr Lee. Doctors that are chosen to work at these hospitals are stringently vetted as the hospitals want to make sure all their credentials, background and experience are up to the standards that they require.

What kind of medical services are provided?

International hospitals are varied in the types of medical services they can offer. In Shanghai, international hospitals can provide many services. Some international facilities provide trauma care, more acute level inpatient services and cardiac care. Large public care hospitals offer a broad range of these services. VIP clinics connected to these hospitals are able to transfer care internally.

International hospitals in China, however, normally partner with larger local hospitals, such as Huashan Hospital, Ruijin Hospital and Zhongshan Hospital, where they can direct patients who need specialized help – this is called a green channel. This means that if a patient at an international hospital needs specialized care, he or she is sent to get treated at a local hospital through this green channel. They can bypass tedious processes and be lead through the system directly to the right person/team that can help them.

Cost of international hospitals in Shanghai

Local public hospitals are by far the cheapest out of the three options, where seeing a doctor can cost as little as ¥30. However, the doctors will probably not be able to speak English, and you won’t be able to make an appointment or use your international health insurance.

VIP clinics, which are normally connected to public hospitals, tend to be anywhere from eight to 10 times more expensive, but normally have English-speaking doctors, accept appointments, are generally cleaner, and now most even accept international health insurance.

International hospitals are normally 30 to 50 percent higher than services at VIP clinics. The prices may be steep but with direct billing with many different international insurance companies and a variety of packages for payment plans (i.e. maternity and orthodontics), making payments doesn’t have to be an issue.

Do international hospitals have their own ambulances?

Hospitals, local or international, do not own or operate their own ambulances; the government owns and operates all of them. “Unlike ambulances in most western countries, ambulances in China are gen- erally a mode of transportation,” says Dr Lee. “It is also very unlikely that the ambulance operators will speak English.”

The ambulance will also take you to the nearest public hospital unless specified. So if you wish to go to another hospital, Dr Lee suggests hav- ing the name and address of your preferred hospital in China on hand. And if you have any medical problems or are on any medications, you should have these written down on a card in Chinese, as well. Am- bulances require payment upon service, so it’s always useful to have some spare cash stashed away in case an emergency arises. Dr. Lee suggests always having ¥10,000 in an emergency fund at home as the ambulance ride alone can be several thousand renminbi.

In China, the central number you can call for an ambulance is 120. Each district in Shanghai has at least one ambulance depot, but can have more depending on the size of the district.

VIP Clinics at Local Chinese Hospitals in Shanghai

While many expatriates prefer to seek treatment at Western managed clinics, there are designated VIP clinics at some leading public hospitals. These tertiary-graded institutions are usually affiliated with leading Chinese medical schools and offer considerable financial savings compared with international services.

What services are available at VIP clinics?

According to Dr Samson Cho, chief surgeon at St Michael Hospital, “VIP clinics within local hospitals have access to modern medical equipment and specialist expertise associated with a large hospital, without the long lines and impersonal nature of local services. The standard of care itself is generally competent at Chinese hospitals. The quality of care in VIP clinics usually mirrors the main hospital, given the medical personnel and equipment are the same.”

Louise Roy, from Shanghai Doula, says patients should expect significant cultural differences in all aspects of service at local hospitals, even in VIP sections. “Given the vast cultural differences in medical care, take a Chinese speaker with you to ensure mutual understand- ing, especially for complex issues. Some physicians and nurses may speak English, but this is not guaranteed. Be mindful that staffing practices and policies may not be what you’re used to.”

New facilities

The Shanghai International Medical Center (SIMC) and the New Hong- qiao International Medical Center each include several specialized hospitals and provide health services to the premium market. (Full contact information is provided in the listings beginning on page 37 of this section)

Located in the international medical zone of Pudong New Area, SIMC began its trial operation in March 2014, in cooperation with eight of Shanghai’s leading hospitals: Ruijin Hospital, Xinhua Hospital, Renji Hospital, Shanghai No.1 People’s Hospital, Shanghai No.9 People’s Hospital, Shanghai Children’s Medical Center, Shanghai Chest Hospital, and Changzheng Hospital.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Specific to emergencies only where time is of the essence, it really depends where you live. If you happen to live within a few minutes of Shanghai United, then sure, that would be a place you could go.

    But if you don’t, which would include a majority of us, its best to find out where the closest University hospital is located and go there. If you are bleeding out, having a heart attack, etc, this will be your best choice. Don’t let yourself fall victim to newbie stereotypes.

    A few months ago I was having serious chest pains and thought I would try Shanghai United. I live in Xujiahui and it took me 28 minutes to get there. I know because I timed it. I won’t say anymore other than it was not an experience that instilled confidence in me. They also are having insurance issues because they over bill etc, so you will start seeing many of the insurance carriers dropping them just as happened in Beijing several years ago.

    I have hear personal in-patient and outpatient experience at Zhongshan, Renji and Huashan hospitals and have found Zhonshan to be very good.

    Point is, save your life and part of doing that is getting medical care ASAP.

    • You are right and wrong at the same time. Yes, in case of an emergency, taking too long to get to the hospital can kill you. But also, the wrong medical care can kill you.

      I am talking from experience. No, I was not killed, but almost. Has a gall bladder problem and was going to Parkway, they had done ultrasounds and other tests and decided to put me on antibiotics. Said if it was not better in 2 or 3 days, they would do more tests. Also said that if it got worse, to go back right away. It got worse at 11 pm, I called them and as they do not have emergency, they said to go to Hua Shan foreign section. Which I did. The first couple of doctors they brought in did not speak English. Then a surgeon came who said I was ok and to go home. I was not ok!!! So I stayed, they refused to admit me because I was okay. Didn’t give me pain medicine either. At 8 am I went to Parkway and my gall bladder was just about to burst. Had surgery and survived. A couple more hours and I could have died.

      And Hua Shan aint cheap either!!! Seeing Chinese doctors with no english, getting an ultrasound, the wrong diagnostic and some regular antibiotics cost around 3000 kuai. Not cheaper than Parkway I think (not sure cause have direct billing there).

      The other day, my daughter ended up with fever at the Children’s Hospital. Blood test — infection. She needs antibiotics. And they brought her PILLS!!! She is 2 years old!!!! I yelled at them and they apologised, it was a mistake!!! What if i didn’t know and had given them to her???

      I think it is important to know what are the limitations of hospitals in China and to have a plan in case of an emergency that cannot be handled here.

      Not thinking about it and saying local hospitals are okay is not an option. I heard people say that if they can take care of emergencies for Chinese people, they can do it for foreigners too. WRONG!!! They do not take care of every emergency for Chinese people. And, if a Chinese person has the bad luck to have something they cannot handle — they die. Fortunately, for foreigners, there is the emergency evacuation option. But we have to stay informed and be aware of what can and cannot be done here.

      And to answer the question, the only place I would go and have gone to in case of an emergency is Shanghai United. I don’t like them, but they are my best bet. Or my children’s best bet. If it is during working hours and it is not very very urgent, I will go to Parkway.

  2. I still think Shanghai United is the best bet (while not ideal, I would rather be overcharged – which Insurance covers – and treated properly – in saying that, we were not overcharged for my wife’s surgery).

    However, realise this can be a distance for many – I am in French Concession so a 15 min drive- or with my driver 10 mins LOL. My wife and I also go to Global Health in Kerry Centre. My wife had a very bad chest infection and saw an English female doctor working there and said she was excellent – better than her last GPs in Auckland.

    Why don’t you go and see them and see if they have some suggestions on where might be best to go for an emergency? They must have some views/ideas. With Singapore 5-6 hours flight time away we all have to face the fact that in a true Emergency we will have to get care here until we can be stabilised and flown out. I live 200 metres from Hua Shan Hospital but unless it was extreme emergency where seconds counted our medical plan is:

    1. Call driver (I am sure his real name is Michael Schumacher)
    2. Call doctor at Global Health for advice/assistance
    3. Head to Shanghai United
    4. Call PA to co-ordinate with Insurer

  3. One other suggestion – If at all possible I recommend people have a Chinese speaker available so if you have to go to a local hospital you can communicate through them with the hospital- even if it is by phone.

    I am lucky as my PA can fill this role for me and in the unlikely event she is not contactable, I have asked several other members of my staff if they would be ok if I called them in an emergency. Also check with your insurer – some have emergency numbers with staff who speak Chinese and can communicate with hospitals.

    Suggest everyone at least have a plan – I have all the key numbers on my mobile phone and with my system I should be at Shanghai United within 20-25 minutes of a problem, have a Chinese speaker available and a western doctor informed and close at hand if needed.

    5 minutes planning now can save many more minutes in an emergency and hopefully yield a much better result. Of course hope never need any of it!

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